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U.S. Seventh Fleet deploys Coast Guard ship near North Korea

By
Elizabeth Shim
The U.S. Seventh Fleet posted this photograph of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf in the Yellow Sea on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of United State Navy/Seventh Fleet
The U.S. Seventh Fleet posted this photograph of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf in the Yellow Sea on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of United State Navy/Seventh Fleet

June 5 (UPI) -- The United States Seventh Fleet has deployed a U.S. Coast Guard ship in the Yellow Sea in waters near North Korea.

The Seventh Fleet stated on its Facebook page on Wednesday the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, WMSL 750, is on duty in the Yellow Sea.

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"U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf [WMSL 750] operates in the Yellow Sea. The ship is engaged in a Western Pacific deployment in support of the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet," the Seventh Fleet said in a post that included several photographs of the 4,500-ton vessel.

No other statements or explanations accompanied the text and photographs.

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The presence of the Bertholf in the Yellow Sea is raising speculation the ship's "Western Pacific" deployment is related to U.S. efforts to step up monitoring and enforcement of sanctions against illicit North Korean transshipments, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

In a statement issued by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command on March 19, the military said the Bertholf would contribute to international cooperation against North Korean sanctions evasion.

But the Seventh Fleet is also disclosing the deployment of the Bertholf only a few days after reports stated China tested submarine-launched ballistic missiles in Bohai Bay, near the Yellow Sea.

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Adjacent to the waters, in the East China Sea and other areas, the United States, Britain, Japan, Australia, Canada and France are monitoring shipping routes for illegal North Korea transshipments. The deployments could be irritating China, which recently accused Washington of destabilizing the Pacific.

U.S. analysts say they are worried the U.S.-China trade dispute could also hurt efforts in sanctions enforcement, Voice of America reported Wednesday.

"The main impact of trade tensions between the U.S. and China is [lowering] the priority of North Korea as an issue on the agenda of U.S.-China relations," said Scott Snyder, director of the U.S.-Korea policy program at the Council of Foreign Relations. "It's going to be harder to get China to cooperate as much as the United States would like because they're focused on other issues in the relationship."

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